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Bedford Springs Reborn

If they rebuild it, will we come?That's the $120 million question behind the restoration of Bedford Springs Resort. Tucked into Pennsylvania's Cumberland Valley, just over a hundred miles southeast of Pittsburgh, this retreat once rivaled the Homestead and the Greenbrier before falling on hard times. Its scheduled return to life in July as an upscale 216-room hotel is nothing short of remarkable. The highlights include a spring-fed spa, five restaurants, a gold-medal trout stream and the revival of a golf course bearing the imprints of A. W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross.

For nearly two centuries, well-heeled guests strolled the sylvan grounds and sampled the mineral-rich springs that inspired the opening of the resort in 1796. Its original twenty-four-room hotel grew—wing by wing, portico by portico—into something grand. In the late 1850s, President James Buchanan made Bedford Springs his summer White House. He received the first transatlantic cable (from Queen Victoria) in its lobby.

Then Bedford Springs suffered the one-two punch of the Great Depression and the Second World War, and despite a brief return to glory that began in the 1950s following construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it was eventually abandoned. The golf course was kept on life support as a daily-fee track.

But what a pedigree it has. The original eighteen, designed in 1895, was revamped in 1912 by Tillinghast, who condensed it to nine and created what became a famous hole: Tiny Tim, a short par three over a pond to a bi-level green guarded by sand and nettlesome mounds. Ross was brought in a decade later to stretch the layout back to eighteen. He, too, preserved certain features and created some of his own, including a treacherous uphill one-shotter called Volcano.

When contemporary architect Ron Forse was tapped to make sense of it all, he was determined to showcase the golden-age giants. Drawing on key elements of each designer's work, he has returned the course to its 1920s state of grace. Tiny Tim again looms large; Volcano is poised to stir eruptions.

Savvy golfers will be coming, indeed.


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